AMATH 383

This is my course review for AMATH 383, continuous modeling. I took the course in Autumn 2015 with Hong Qian. The text we used is KK Tung’s Topics in Mathematical Modeling.

Content

Homework

The homework assignments are fairly difficult and involve a lot of tedious algebra. I do get the feeling that the homework is very different (in terms of content and weight) depending on the instructor. Qian doesn’t emphasize computer-based modeling very much, so none of the homework assignments require the use of MATLAB, for example (there are a few questions that ask you to graph things). On the other hand, looking online at past quarters, other instructors seem to have a lot of assignments that require running computer programs.

I’ve also noticed that different instructors put different weight to the homework, in terms of grades. Qian puts homework at 40% of the grade, but I think I’ve seen as low as 25% and as high as 50%.

So one idea: consider which instructor you want for the course, because your experience could be very different. This is in contrast to CSE 142/3, where I think the experience is more uniform across instructors.

Overall, I somewhat regret taking this course now, because I don’t really need it for my degree (I took it for fun), and it didn’t turn out to be as fun as I thought (I was interested in playing around with running the models on a computer, but instead the course emphasized tedious algebra which I strongly dislike).

Interesting view on RateMyProfessors.com:

He’s a very smart man, but when I go to class, all he does is go on about his own pet problems. The text book was necessary and expensive, but he didn’t really use it, besides for assigning homework. Don’t take if you’re bad at differential equations. Please. Take the whole MATH 30(7, 8, 9) series first. And, going to class never really helped.

I’m actually sympathetic to this view. Even though I covered differential equations in MATH 135, the class was not just about differential equations; as a result, I only spent a few weeks on material that others would have spent the entire quarter (or multiple quarters) on1. From observing a few of the other students in class, it seemed clear that they were more adept at solving differential equations and the types of problems given out as homework.

In the end, the final project ended up being fairly relaxing and enjoyable, compared to the rest of the course. That’s not to say that the project is high quality though.


  1. On one hand, this put me at a disadvantage in this course. On the other hand, I don’t expect to solve too many more differential equations by hand going forward. Indeed, as a computer science major, I don’t really have to take any more math courses at all.